Summary Objective 19

Students will examine the ways that the federal government’s policies affected the lives of formerly enslaved people. Maps to Key Concepts 8, 9 & 10


What else should my students know?

19.A The U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) was a large bureaucracy created after the Civil War to help people who had been enslaved. It provided services including legal aid, food, housing and education. The Freedmen’s Bureau also tried to reunite separated families and oversaw the attempts to settle freedpeople on confiscated or abandoned Confederate lands.

19.B Access to land was one of the main issues to affect the lives of those who had been enslaved. During the war, the Union Army relocated freedpeople onto confiscated Confederate land. However most of those resettled were kicked off their farms in 1866, when President Andrew Johnson ordered the land returned to the former enslavers.

19.C By passing the 14th and 15th Amendments during Congressional (Radical) Reconstruction, the federal government made a commitment to protect the legal and political rights of African Americans. Federal troops enforced the civil and political rights of African Americans in the South during Congressional Reconstruction. 


How can I teach this?

  • A wealth of primary documents are available through the website of The Freedmen and Southern Society Project.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15 (1865) confiscated 400,000 acres of land from enslavers in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and distributed it to people who had been enslaved. The land was returned during Presidential Reconstruction, when Andrew Johnson restored most former Confederates’ political rights and property.
  • The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 gave individual grants of 80 acres of publicly-owned land to settlers who resided there for five years. No one who supported the Confederacy could file a claim before 1867. However, the land was of poor quality and few freedpeople had the money necessary to move or to buy farming supplies. 

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